Seven-day blackouts emergency move planned if Putin strikes pipeline

Alison Hammond discusses potential blackouts

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The Government could impose a seven-day-long blackout across the UK, should Russia decide to target the country’s energy infrastructure, was told. Last night, a leaked document revealed that ministers were “war-gaming” Programme Yarrow, which is a blueprint for how the UK could deal with a week-long national power outage. As winter looms, fears have grown that the country could fail to acquire sufficient energy supplies this winter. While these concerns by the Whitehall officials and the National Grid arise due to the increased competition over existing gas supplies, there are also concerns that Russia could target Britain’s energy infrastructure.

Leaked documents have said that the Government is planning for a “reasonable worst-case scenario”, where all sectors including transport, food and water supply, communications and energy could be “severely disrupted” for up to a week.

This is a significant escalation from the National Grid’s original warning, whether they said that they could roll out three-hour blackouts during a gas supply emergency. 

Speaking to, Dr Simon Cran-McGreehin, the Head of Analysis at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit explained that the “National Grid is looking at what it thinks is the most likely bad outcome.”

Meanwhile, the Government is looking at “what is the very worst thing you can imagine happening”, and is preparing for a “reasonable worst-case scenario”.

He said: “This reflects just how seriously the Government is taking the risks that are being caused by the ongoing gas crisis, and obviously, we’ll depend a lot on whether the winter is cold.

“If it is, then we’ll have to use more gas. But across the continent, other countries will be using more gas, so we’ll be less able to buy extra gas. There is also a possibility that Russia causes further disruption in supplies, meddling in different ways like they have for the past year.”

The UK’s struggle to secure enough gas and electricity could become much worse as fears grow that Russia’s could target the gas pipelines between the UK and Norway. 

Last week, Russia’s Ministry of Defence accused Royal Navy personnel of blowing up the Nord Stream gas pipelines in September, an assertion that London said was false. 

Following this accusation, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov warned that Russia is considering what “further steps” should be taken, raising fears that the UK’s energy could now be at risk.

Dr Cran-McGreehin noted that if Putin were to target the UK’s energy infrastructure, this could cause enough disruption to force the Government to trigger Programme Yarrow.

He said: “Yes. If our supplies from Norway and the continent were disrupted in some way, then it would have a significant impact on our gas supplies.

“We also import significant amounts from LNG ships, they come directly to ports. But nevertheless, if any of our energy infrastructures were to be compromised, then absolutely we’d see the sort of major interruption that the Government is planning for now.

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He added that while he doesn’t know whether Russian sabotage would be factored into the UK’s plans, “I think that the Government will be very concerned about the rumours and suggestions that Russia has been allegedly interfering with energy infrastructure.”

It is important to note that this exercise was originally designed to cope with a major failure, like a flood affecting critical infrastructure, or a massive lightning strike.

He continued: “This winter is going to be tough. The only silver lining is that it’s going to be less tough than it would have been if we had as much gas generation and such diversified sources.”

He added that without the UK’s massive renewable energy rollout of the past few years, the country would have been more vulnerable than it currently is.

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